Please Note: this blog post was updated with links to my work on "knowledge contamination" on 9th February 2015 and to the second edition of Nullius in Verba in 2019
Before the invention and popularization of the internet, a perfectly rational case was made to dismiss the veracity of arguments, based upon etymological evidence, that were being used by Professor Loren Eiseley in his efforts to prove that Charles Darwin had committed a research fraud by way of plagiarizing , among others, Patrick Matthew’s book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture (1831).
In support of his argument against Eiseley’s ‘Darwin the plagiarist’ etymological evidence, Professor Kentwood Wells (1973, p. 245) wrote:
‘Deducing intellectual influence merely from similarity of language is a risky business at best. As an extreme example, it might be noted that in Emigration Fields, Matthew proposed the formation of a “peace corps” in New Zealand to help the natives set up schools and train native teachers. Certainly no historian would suggest that John F. Kennedy got the idea of the Peace Corps from reading Patrick Matthew.’
Actually, if the Internet, WWW, Google and the IDD research method (Sutton 2013 and in particular Sutton and Griffiths 2018) had been invented back in the autumn of 1973 when Wells’ article was published he would not have used that analogy without first checking to see who did first coin the term 'Peace Corps'. Next he would have found out with ID just how often it was used between that first publication and President Kennedy’s use of it. Because, as we are going to see, Wells appears to have been fundamentally wrong on his facts if not his contemporary reasoning.
Personally, rather than lecture on the dangers of etymological fallacies, which were a genuine danger for scholars of our recent past. I begin my research on this issue by using ID to search whether or not the term ‘Peace Corps’ appears to have been coined before 1839 – the date when Matthew’s second book, Emigration Fields, was published. If Matthew was, apparently, the only person to use the term before Kennedy, we should be a lot less ready to jump to the immediate conclusion that Kennedy, one of his speech writers, or policy wonks, came up with it independently. Rather, we should see if there are any links between Matthew’s book Emigration Fields, the terminology within it and President Kennedy’s men who 'discovered' the name 'Peace Corps' for him.
Using ID, it is immediately discoverable that the first currently known publication of the term ‘peace corps’, most amazingly, is in Matthew’s ‘Emigration fields’. He wrote (Matthew 1839, p146):
‘By means of this peace corps, a great well combined, effort should be made to christianize and civilize the whole native population of the group; forming normal schools, and even colleges, for the instruction of native teachers, as well clergymen as schoolmasters, and especially instructing the rising generation in the English language.’
From this discovery, we can fairly confidently assert, strange though it is, that in the current absence of any disconfirming evidence, Patrick Matthew coined both the name and originated the basic concept of the Peace Corps.
After about two to three hours reviewing all the scanned literature on the internet, I determined that ‘Peace Corps’ was an exceedingly rare term until President Kennedy’s announcement of the US Peace Corps volunteer program on 1st March 1961.
Pre-1961, other than Patrick Matthew (1839), the only other person, discoverable with Google, to use the term was Matthew Hale (1869;1871), who used it in the context of an armed force using threat of force to keep peace to quell a pro-slavery, anti-abolitionist, riot in New York (1869) and thereafter as the armed militia being a standing peace-keeping deterrent against those bent on potential violent civil disorder (1871).
Matthew proposed the Peace Corps in Chapter Ten of his book ‘Emigration Fields’. Essentially, he saw Protestant and Catholic missionaries as particularly effective educators of the Maori inhabitants of New Zealand, in order to effectively colonise the country without massacre. He proposed that these missionary educators would be supported by attachments of military units to keep the peace. He wished to see teachers, clergymen and those trained in the medical profession so employed.
We might be inclined to leave it at that and quite reasonably, like Wells, suppose that Kennedy or his political advisors simply must have come up with the phrase independently of its originator Patrick Matthew. However, a little further ‘triangulation’ searching suggests that the legacy of Matthew’s book and his Scots New Zealand Company (see Salesa 2011) might actually be the source of the naming of the US Peace Corps. Because, files containing notes on conversations with Christian missionary educators seem to be at the root of what we now know is the myth that Professor Peter Grothe coined the term in 1948 via Senator Humphrey, who is then said to have passed it on to Kennedy. The following text, taken from Coyne (2011), is what Grothe had to say about how the Corps was established and named:
‘In the late 50’s Humphrey was inspired by the example of the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers) doing successful literacy training in some developing countries. When I went to work as the very young Foreign Relations Adviser for the Senator in 1960, I came across his idea in the files and asked if I could work on it. The Senator, never known for a lack of passion, enthusiastically supported the idea.I spent the next six weeks interviewing anyone I could find who had some sort of relevant experience, which mainly meant Christian missionaries doing community development work in the developing world.’
I certainly never expected that Matthew could possibly be the originator of the term and concept of the Peace Corps as well as the originator of the natural law of the process of natural selection. But the fact that his well-received book, ‘Emigration Fields,’ (Matthew 1839) was written as a policy handbook for the implementation of his concept, by Christian missionaries, makes the discovery, of possible oral "knowledge contamination" from Missionaries to Kennedy's men - in the above two paragraphs particularly interesting. It seems on the face of it that the down the years Matthew’s term the Peace Corps might well have remained part of the oral tradition and self-identity of Christian missionaries throughout the years that followed their establishment in 19th century European colonization of various parts of the Globe. In effect, it appears, in entire current absence of any dis-confirming evidence, that Matthew’s term ‘Peace Corps’ might have been adopted by those recruited to do the very work he proposed for them under the very name he wanted them called by. It seems plausible that their name was kept alive for over 100 years within the missionary movement until President Kennedy’s men heard and seized upon it to re-invent, re-brand and expand the movement as though its name and aims were a unique American invention. Given that Matthew is discovered, at least at the time of writing, to be apparently first (at least out of the 30 million+ publications so far in Google's Library Project) to have coined the term for 19th-century missionaries, and given that and 20th century missionaries spoke to the men who supposedly invented the term, then the knowledge contamination hypothesis can't be ruled out, which means Matthew should - rationally - be attributed with coining the term and given full priority over Kennedy for both the term and concept.
In absence of any disconfirming evidence that the apparent originator influenced the replicator, and in the presence of plausible confirmatory evidence that they did via knowledge contamination of some kind, this is the exact same reasoning, in light of the newly discovered data about who cited Matthew's 1831 book pre-1858 - who actually knew Darwin - for arguing why Matthew now has full priority over Darwin and Wallace for his prior-published discovery of the 'natural process of selection' in 1831 (See Sutton 2014 and 2017).
Of course, disconfirming evidence might turn up at any time in such cases And if that happens we should weigh it in the balance. This is how knowledge evolves and, hopefully, progresses towards veracity.
I think Kentwood Wells would clearly agree that deducing, and also inducing, intellectual influence from similarity of language is at last a lot safer and productive than it used to be. I, for one, would never have found out who is responsible for coining the name and concept of the US Peace Corps had it not been for his considered remarks of 1973. However, with the benefit of ID we can now see that Wells made a complete blunder, albeit one that was impossible to prove as such at the time.
The wonderful symmetry of the Kentwood Wells' story is that his Peace Corps argument was at the time a perfectly sound rationale against etymological fishing for phrases. But now it, ironically, serves as proof that – with new technology - the method actually is sound research practice, at least with regard to words, terms, and phrases coined before the first half of the 19th century - because the 30+ million documents in the Google Library Project is comprised mostly of just such out of copyright materials. Moreover, before the arrival of the steam-mechanised press of the second half of the 19th century, there were far fewer publications.
Perhaps time will tell us a different story, but, weird as it is, for now the best evidence we have is that Patrick Matthew coined the name and originated the concept of the US Peace Corps.
More importantly then this quirky tale, as I will shortly reveal in a future blog, Matthew is known to have also discovered the 'natural process of selection', 28 years before Darwin and Wallace replicated it and each claimed to have discovered it independently. What is new about my research is that, contrary to current 'knowledge beliefs', I can prove that Darwin and Wallace stole Matthew's hypothesis to commit the greatest research fraud in history. Watch this space.
POSTSCRIPT (8th Feb. 2015)
In 1844, we find Matthew's Peace Corps idea had been ignored by the British Government and that the combination of that failure - linked to Captain Fitzroy's dreadful governorship - is blamed for the New Zealand "uprising" at Cloudy Bay (here). And in case you never knew it - that is the same Fitzroy who captained the Beagle! Later, after plagiarizing his book of 1831 Darwin went on to disingenuously portray Matthew as an obscure Scottish author on forest trees (Sutton 2014).
All this - and far, far, more uniquely revealed and explained with newly discovered and independently verifiable hard data in my book Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret
Coyne, J. (2011) Seeds of the Peace Corps: http:
//peacecorpsworldwide.org /the-50th /2011 /08 /23 /seeds/. Peace Corps Worldwide. Posted on Tuesday, August 23rd.
Hale, M. H. (1869) Sunshine and shadow in New York. Hartford. J. B. Burr and company
Hale, M. H. (1871) Twenty years among the bulls and bears of Wall street. Hartford. J. B. Burr and company
Matthew, P (1831) On Naval Timber and Arboriculture; With a critical note on authors who have recently treated the subject of planting. Edinburgh. Adam Black. http:
Matthew, P. (1839) Emigration fields: North America, the Cape, Australia, and New Zealand; describing these countries, and giving a comparative view of the advantages they present to British settlers. Edinburgh. Adam and Charles Black.
Salesa, D, L (2011) Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
Sutton, M. (2013) Sutton's Internet Date-Detection (ID) Guide: The Mythbusting Tool-kit (Part 1) Best Thinking.com. Criminology: The Blog of Mike Sutton. October 30th http:
//www.bestthinking.com /thinkers /science /social_sciences /sociology /mike-sutton?tab=blog&blogpostid=21414%2c21414
Wells, K. D. (1973) The Historical Context of Natural selection: The Case of Patrick Matthew. Journal of the History of Biology. Vol. 6. N0. 2. pp. 225-258.
 Although in Emigration Fields Matthew thought that Catholic and Protestant missionaries might be better suited for the job than Quakers who might encourage too much dangerous philosophical contemplation among the natives.